PGA Tour Picks: Northern Trust Open Odds and Expert Betting Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 2/16/2016
I'm a pretty big Phil Mickelson fan. So it was heartbreaking to see him miss that fairly easy putt on the 72nd hole Sunday at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am to miss a playoff against Vaughn Taylor. At the same time, it was great to see the journeyman Taylor win and especially moving to witness the reaction of he and his wife afterward.
Mickelson played terrific golf almost all week and had a five-footer at 18 on Sunday to force that playoff and a shot at his fifth Pebble Beach Pro-Am title and first PGA Tour win anywhere in nearly three years. Lefty had led by two entering the final round and struggled early. When he got to the par-3 17th, Mickelson was down two to Taylor. Mickelson made a beautiful birdie on that hole to set the dramatics on 18.
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“Never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t make that one,” Mickelson said.
On the bright side, it does appear Mickelson is back at an elite level. It was his third Top 11 finish in four starts in 2016. As for Taylor, he entered last week at No. 447 in the world rankings and hadn't won on the Tour in 11 years. In fact, he was playing on the Web.com Tour. He pulled out of an event in Colombia two weeks ago with some sort of virus and went straight to California. He was originally an alternate at Pebble Beach and started this season with the limited status afforded to past Tour champions due to wins in the Barracuda Championship in 2004 and 2005. He was on seventh on Tour in starts since 2005 without a win.
Taylor shot to the top of the leaderboard on Sunday with four consecutive birdies from holes 13-16. He shot a seven-under 65 for the day after beginning Sunday six shots behind Mickelson. And now Taylor has a two-year exemption on the Tour and a ticket to the Masters (he lives in Augusta), among other spoils. Taylor was planning to attempt to Monday qualify for this week's tournament but is now in.
Needless to say, Taylor wasn't on my radar last week. I went with Jimmy Walker at +1600 (same price as Mickelson) to win. He had a second-round 63 but didn't break 70 in any other round and was T11. For the first time in a long while, I didn't get a single Top 10, liking Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson with Walker. Hit on a few head-to-head props but let's put Pebble in the rear-view mirror.
The West Coast Swing concludes this week with the best field of the year thus far, thanks to most of the top Europeans coming over, for the Northern Trust Open at storied Riviera Country Club outside Los Angeles. Riviera, known as "Hogan's Alley," was the toughest par 71 on Tour last year with a scoring average of 72.592. The Top 50 in the world rankings after this event automatically qualify for next month’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump Doral.
The defending champion is James Hahn, his first Tour win. He beat Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey in a playoff that lasted three holes. Johnson just missed a 10-foot putt on his 72nd hole to win it and a 12-footer to extend the playoff. Casey bogeyed the 18th. Sergio Garcia was leading but finished bogey-bogey. Hahn is back to defend but has done little since and is a +10000 long shot at Bovada. Garcia is one of a group of top Euros making their 2016 USA debuts.
Golf Odds: Northern Trust Open Favorites
Spieth is the +650 favorite along with Rory McIlroy, also making his debut in the States this year. Spieth was a disappointing 21st last week but did finish strong with a 66 on Sunday. He finished one shot out of this playoff last year. McIlroy was T3 and T6 in his first two starts in 2016 on the European Tour. He has never played an official PGA Tour round at Riviera.
Johnson (+1400), Hideki Matsuyama (+1600) and Justin Rose (+1800) round out the favorites. Johnson wasn't just runner-up here last year but also in 2014 (solo that year). He has two other Top 5s at Riviera this decade. Johnson was 41st last week. I picked Matsuyama to win two weeks ago outside Phoenix and he did before taking last week off. He also was a shot out of last year's playoff here. Rose was sixth last week at Pebble. His best finish here of late was ninth in 2011.
Golf Odds: Northern Trust Open Picks
For a Top 10, I like McIlroy at -150, Johnson at +135, Matsuyama at +140 and Charl Schwartzel at +225 (he just won overseas). For the top Englishman, go Casey at +350. I like McIlroy as the top European at +150. Go Matsuyama at +275 as top "rest of the world."
Head-to-head, go Casey (-175) over Andy Sullivan (+135), Schwartzel (-115) over J.B. Holmes (-115), Rose (-165) over Walker (+125), Bill Haas (-125) over Adam Scott (-105), McIlroy (-120) over Spieth (-110), Garcia (-115) over Bubba Watson (-115), and Johnson over Matsuyama (-115).
Johnson has come so close to winning here before and I think he breaks through this time.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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